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Endorphin Deficiency

Are you too sensitive to life’s pain?

If your endorphin levels are low, you’re one of many people who were born low in the joy department or have run low after expending too many of your endorphins coping with too much of life’s pain.  Some people have learned to hide this well by having a protective veneer of toughness or joviality.  Others avoid emotional intimacy or confrontation and comfort themselves with chocolate or other foods, alcohol, painkilling drugs or other compulsive behaviors (shopping, sex, etc.)  is also released which allows us to conquer and withstand adversity.

What happens when you don’t have enough endorphins?

For most people, thinking about something they love and tuning in to how they feel can stimulate enjoyment, contentment, and euphoria.  A massage, certain pleasant fragrances, or soaking up some sunshine, can also do it.  However, if you don’t have enough endorphins to boost in the first place, you will find it hard to locate enough natural enjoyment or comfort in your life and even major treats will give you only brief or dim pleasure.

How did You become Endorphin Deficient?

  • Genetics:  Some people are born with low levels of endorphins which makes them more vulnerable to emotional injury. Did people call you a “crybaby” or say your were “just too darned sensitive” even as a child or teenager?  Then you may have been deficient from the get go.
  • Too Much Stress:  Every time you get upset, injured, sick, scared, or even excited, you wear down your endorphin levels. Whether your in labor and pushing past the strain or pushing to finish your workout or long distance run, you’re subtracting from your painkilling resources.
  • Too Much Pain:  Emotional and physical pain, as well as abuse and neglect can zap your endorphin supply.  Even keeping up the denial or avoidance of the painful memories expends a constant amount of endorphins until people resort to sugar, alcohol or drugs to help them deal with the trauma.
  • Gender:  Adult men have higher endorphin levels than woman unless the woman is doing regular vigorous exercise. Endorphin levels should peak for women during ovulation but if you have PMS, your levels likely don’t rise and are probably low throughout your cycle.  Estrogen rules the release of endorphins (and serotonin) so levels are usually low for women in menopause.
  • Not enough Exercise:  If you have a stagnant lifestyle, your levels are likely lower.  Moderate exercise can help stimulate endorphin production.

Endorphin Boosting Strategies

  1. Eat at least 20grams (4-6oz) of high protein foods (fish, eggs, cottage cheese, chicken) three times a day;
  2. Eat enough vitamin and mineral rich vegetables and take a whole food supplement recommended by a health care professional;
  3. Reduce sugar, flour, coffee, and dairy consumption as these foods often become addictive as they rigger the production of false endorphins called “exorphins”;
  4. Get enough exercise, sunlight (with UV protection), music, romance, and nature.  Note:  If you’ve exercised long enough to get an endorphin “high” than you’ve gone too long because this high doesn’t kick in until after you’ve hit the wall of exertion;
  5. Avoid compulsive behaviors like over-exercising, shopping, sex, over-eating, gambling or drug and alcohol use because although you feel the rush initially, it quickly wears off and you will need to “up the anty” to feel the benefits, which can have catastrophic consequences otherwise;
  6. Try guided imagery, Neurotherapy, or positive healing experiences along with aroma therapy, massage, or acupuncture to help release endorphins;
  7. Consider nutritional supplements like B vitamins, Vitamin C (can boost endorphins and helps eliminate painful withdrawal from opiates).  Omega-3 fats, along with vitamins D & E and zinc, block inflammatory pain directly and promote endorphin production.  It is recommended that you consult with your physician before taking any supplements, especially if you are taking any other prescribed medications.


  1. I would appreciate knowing if there is a test available to know for sure if you are naturally endorphin deficient? I’m 59 yr divorced mom with 2 adult children.Im on disability for Major recurrent depression and anxiety. I am medication resistant. After having major pain issues I was referred to Pain management. I found at first that the meds also took away my symtoms of depression. Now, 4 months later my mental health issues are worse and I’m scared and don’t know who to turn to for help. Any suggestions and insight to what’s happening would be greatly appreciated.Sincerely, Sherrie in Ft.worth,Tx.

  2. Hi Sherrie- pain & depression often go hand in hand. When we experience physical pain our body has an adrenal/stress response which can raise cortisol (the stress hormone) levels and our body can be sent into emergency mode which can impair the function of regular neurotransmitter processing as well as hormone regulation throughout the body.You can contact a naturopathic physician for neurotransmitter testing to see if you might benefit from nutritional therapy including amino acid supplementation. You can help yourself by reducing inflammation in the body by eliminating highly processed foods which contain lots of sugars & ingredients our bodies don’t know how to use well. Drinks lots of water & eat mostly vegetables & protein.

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